Mitch Petrus could make a nice living in the Ultimate Fight Championship circuit, if he decides to never play another football game. He’s had to fight for everything he has earned on the football field, so it could be an alternative career move. He was not regarded as a college prospect after his career at Carlisle High School and had to fight for an opportunity to even join the Arkansas team.
In 2005, Petrus arrived at the Razorbacks’ fall camp as a walk-on. At best, he was hoping the coaches would at least offer him a position on the scout team. But, his tenacity and desire to play saw him used on the kick coverage unit at first. His hard hits in practice earned him notice by several position coaches.
Petrus volunteered for duty at tight end and was later moved to offensive guard. After sitting out the first two games of his freshman campaign, the staff finally relented and gave this ball of energy a varsity jersey. He would go on to see action in nine games, thus ending any hopes for a movie producer to do a “Rudy” type of show on his quest to play the game.
Versatility and a love for the game have always been his strong suits. Petrus lettered as a tight end, fullback and linebacker at Carlisle High. He was the recipient of the Class AA Conference Lineman of the Year Award and was named All-Conference and All-State as a senior.
As a tight end, Petrus hauled in 40 receptions for 750 yards and eight touchdowns. During his junior campaign, he broke the state record for tackles in a game with 39. He recorded 306 tackles, including 145 solo tackles, his senior year and led the state. He also lettered in basketball and track and was an All-Conference and All-State performer in basketball.
When no major colleges made him a scholarship offer, Petrus headed to Arkansas, determined to prove recruiters wrong. In nine games, he competed on the kick coverage team, tight end and later backed up Robert Felton at right offensive guard in 2005. His first experience at offensive guard came in the Louisiana-Monroe game when he registered a 91% grade for blocking consistency.
Petrus expected to compete for a job on the offensive line when 2006 preseason drills began. Instead, he was moved to fullback, where he was one of the Hogs’ most effective blockers out of the backfield and on special teams. He appeared in all fourteen games, logging time as a blocking back and on the kickoff return and PAT/field goal units.
Petrus helped clear the way for a pair of 1,000-yard rushers (Darren McFadden and Felix Jones) and the 2006 Doak Walker Award winner (McFadden). He did get a chance to touch the ball once, gaining one yard on a rushing attempt vs. Southeast Missouri.
In 2007, Petrus continued his “traveling road show.” He reported to preseason camp as a fullback, but by the time the season opener rolled around, he was shifted to left offensive guard, starting all but the Chattanooga contest. He was named All-Southern Conference second-team by the league’s coaches. He helped Arkansas’ line pave the way for an SEC-leading and school-record 3,725 rushing yards, and an average of 286.5 yards per game, which was fourth in the nation. Arkansas also generated a school-record 5,850 yards of total offense and scored a school-record 485 points.
That season, Petrus cleared the way for two All-American running backs – Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden, who led the SEC and ranked fourth in the nation in rushing (140.8), and Felix Jones, who ranked fifth in the SEC and No. 43 in the country (89.4). His overall grade for the year was 83.46%, as he finished third on the team with 54 knockdowns.
Petrus was expected to emerge as one of the nation’s offensive guards in 2008, but he was forced to sit out the season after switching majors and falling a few credits short of NCAA academic eligibility guidelines. He blamed the mistake on himself, but added that it was difficult to watch as the Razorbacks struggled to their 5-7 season in 2008.
It didn’t take long for Petrus to realize the academic mistake also proved to be a blessing in disguise. He spent the 2008 campaign digesting Arkansas’ complex offense, learning the ins and outs of new head coach Bobby Petrino’s system. He credited former Arkansas quarterback Alex Mortensen for helping him along, giving him one-on-one lessons.
“He would come in and meet with me over at my house two and three times a week and go over things,” Petrus said. “He would grab a dry erase board and we would watch film of the other team we’re about to play. We’d break it down and know the tendencies. I really realized then how much you know pre-snap can really be beneficial to you as a player.”
Petrus used that knowledge to his benefit since stepping back on the playing field. He also improved his classroom skills to the point that he was named to the Razorback Honor Roll for the 2008-09 semesters.
Back in the lineup for the 2009 campaign, Petrus made up for lost time, securing a first-team spot on the All-SEC squad. While he started all year at offensive guard, he was moved to the right side in fall camp after playing on the left side in 2007. He led the team with 113 knockdowns, ranked second in the league among interior blockers with twelve touchdown-resulting blocks and graded 85.69% for blocking consistency.
Arkansas offensive line coach Mike Summers said the lineman showed plenty of growth. “He’s really made as big a transformation as anybody on our team from when I first got here, just in his dedication to his craft of being an offensive lineman,” Summers said. “He has become really technically sound. I think he understands football and understands our scheme really well, and I think that was a struggle when we first got here.”
Petrus would follow his banner senior campaign with an impressive performance at the Senior Bowl, where his raw power made him a standout in one-on-one drills. He further established his ranking at the recently held NFL Scouting Combine. In the weight room, he tied the Combine record by lifting 225 pounds 45 times. He would later be forced to shut down in the agility tests after pulling a hamstring running a 40-yard dash.
Petrus characterized his sudden explosion to 45 repetitions as a mixture of adrenaline and the can-do attitude that he'd learned as a walk-on. "It's not luck, I can tell you that," he said. “I’m not being the biggest, baddest guy on the field, I had to be the hardest working guy on the field. It is what got me through the 45 today. I didn't wake up this morning feeling like a totally different person. I'm not a freak of nature. I weighed 230 in high school. I weigh 310 now. I do whatever it takes. You reap what you sow."
*CAREER NOTES *
Petrus appeared in 49 games at Arkansas, competing as a fullback, left offensive guard, right guard, tight end and on the kick coverage unit…Started his final 25 games as an offensive guard – 12 at left guard in 2007 and 13 at right guard in 2009…Recorded 167 knockdowns/key blocks with 21 touchdown-resulting blocks as a starter on the offensive line…Recently timed the NFL Scouting Combine bench press record with 45 repetitions, a mark first set by Mike Kudla of Ohio State in 2006.
Earned All-Southeastern Conference first-team honors from The NFL Draft Report and the league’s coaches, adding second-team accolades from the Associated Press…Named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week vs. Eastern Michigan…Returned to action and shifted to right offensive guard, starting all thirteen games…Registered 113 knockdowns/key blocks with twelve touchdown-resulting blocks and five blocks downfield, as he paved the way for the Razorbacks’ revived aerial attack, as Arkansas led the SEC and ranked tenth in the nation with an average of 295.54 yards per game passing…The Hogs finished 20th in the major college ranks in total offense (427.31 ypg) and led the conference while placing ninth nationally in scoring (36.00 ppg)…Was penalized three times and allowed only two quarterback pressures, but no sacks on 439 pass plays…Also recorded a solo tackles in the Louisiana State clash.
2009 GAME ANALYSIS
Missouri State…Back on the field for the first time since the 2007 season, Petrus made up for lost time, knocking down defenders ten times while coming up with a pair of touch-down resulting blocks…The team’s first touchdown from the line of scrimmage came when the new right guard trapped defensive tackle Waylon Richardet, opening a cutback lane used by Michael Smith for a 15-yard scoring burst midway through the first quarter…
QB Tyler Wilson hid behind Petrus until he could lob a 2-yard touchdown to Van Stumon that ended a 16-play, 83-yard second quarter drive…Head to Head Competition-DT#98-Travis Chappelear (6:06-259)-Five tackles (1 solo)…Petrus Offensive Impact-*The right guard recorded ten knockdowns with two touchdown-resulting blocks, grading 91%... Helped the team gain 144 yards rushing, 447 yards passing and generate 591 total yards on 71 plays.
Alabama…Petrus did not allow a defender to register any statistics vs. him, as he posted nine knockdowns…On the team’s only scoring drive, he stalked linebacker Rolando McClain in the backfield, neutralizing the “Mike” man long enough for QB Ryan Mallett to find Greg Childs with an 18-yard scoring strike…Head to Head Competition-DT#95-Brandon Deaderick (6:04-306)-No tackles…Petrus Offensive Impact-The right guard recorded nine knockdowns with one touchdown-resulting block, grading 90%... Helped the team gain 63 yards rushing, 191 yards passing and generate 254 total yards on 67 plays.
Texas A&M…Petrus produced ten knockdowns for the second time in four games, guiding the Hogs to a 47-19 triumph…Two A&M safeties looked like Bambi staring at the head-lights of an oncoming truck, as Petrus fired into the second level and flattened free safety Jordan Pugh, taking down Trent Hunter with another shot, as tailback Ronnie Wingo raced 62 yards for a touchdown…Head to Head Competition-DT#77-Lucas Patterson (6:04-303)-One solo tackle…Petrus Offensive Impact-The right guard recorded ten knockdowns with one touchdown-resulting block and one downfield block, grading 91%...Helped the team gain 163 yards rushing, 271 yards passing and generate 434 total yards on 58 plays.
Auburn…For the fourth time in five games, Petrus graded 90% or better for blocking consistency, repeating his knockdown total (ten) from the previous game…He again made a sensational block downfield, leveling linebacker Craig Stevens to spring Michael Smith for a 25-yard second quarter scoring scamper…Head to Head Competition-DT#91-Jake Ricks (6:04-292)-One solo tackle…Petrus Offensive Impact-The right guard recorded ten knockdowns with one touchdown-resulting block and one downfield block, grading 91%...Helped the team gain 221 yards rushing, 274 yards passing and generate 495 total yards on 82 plays.
Eastern Michigan…Petrus was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week, registering double digit knockdowns (ten) for the fourth time in 2009…He continued to come up with big plays in the open field, upending linebacker Andre Hatchett on a second quarter end-around, as Broderick Green took a handoff at the Arkansas 1-yard line, bounced off Petrus’ block and turned the right corner for a 99-yard scoring sprint…With 1:38 left in the first half, Hatchett tried to blitz, but Petrus took the legs out from under the defender as QB Ryan Mallett stepped up in the pocket to fire a 78-yard touchdown pass to Joe Adams…Head to Head Competition-DT#96-Brandon Slater (6:03-272)-Two tackles (1 solo)…Petrus Offensive Impact-The right guard recorded ten knockdowns with two touch-down-resulting blocks and two downfield blocks, grading 98%...Helped the team gain 292 yards rushing, 297 yards passing and generate 589 total yards on 57 plays.
Troy…The senior guard was credited with a career-high fourteen knockdowns in a 56-20 win, but was penalized for the first time since 2007, when he was flagged for a false start late in the first quarter…He made up for that miscue in the second quarter, executing a scoop block on defensive end Brandon Lang, opening a cutback lane that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Wingo with 3:42 left in the first half…Head to Head Competition-DT#99-Eugene Kinlaw (6:02-294)-Two solo tackles…Petrus Offensive Impact-The right guard recorded fourteen knockdowns with one touchdown-resulting block, but was penalized once for a false start, grading 89%...Helped the team gain 187 yards rushing, 405 yards passing and generate 592 total yards on 65 plays.
Petrus was ruled academically ineligible for 2008, but practiced with the team while red-shirting.
*2007 SEASON *
Petrus earned All-SEC second-team honors from the league’s coaches…Shifted from fullback to left offensive guard in fall camp, starting all but the Chattanooga contest…
Cleared the way for two All-American running backs – Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden, who led the SEC and ranked fourth in the nation in rushing (140.8), and Felix Jones, who ranked fifth in the SEC (89.4)…Graded 83.46% for blocking consistency, as his 54 knockdowns/key blocks ranked third on the team…Paved the way for a running attack that ranked fourth in the nation with an average of 286.54 yards per game, as the Razorbacks tallied a school season-record 3,725 yards on the ground…Also advanced a short kickoff 10 yards vs. Tennessee.
2007 GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Alabama…Graded 92%, as he dominated the action in the trenches, posting thirteen knockdowns as the Razorbacks totaled 450 yards…He was charged with a penalty on a false start early in the fourth quarter, but he simply flattened defensive end Wallace Gilberry on a 13-yard run by tailback Darren McFadden, cleared a path for McFadden’s 7-yard scamper and then held off linebacker Darren Mustin as QB Casey Dick ended that third quarter, 5-play, 61-yard series with a 2-yard scoring lob to Andrew Davie… *Head to Head Competition-DT#97-Lorenzo Washington (6:04-288)-Four tackles (2 solos), 0.5 stop for a 1-yard loss.
North Texas…The left guard earned a season-high 95% grade, as he registered three touchdown-resulting blocks en route to leading the way for Arkansas runners that rushed for 446 yards…Tailback Felix Jones used a hole created by Petrus for a 35-yard scoring scamper on the team’s first series…He then took down defensive tackle Blake Burruss on Darren McFadden’s 2-yard scoring run later in the opening frame…In the second quarter, he leveled linebacker Maurice Holman to spring Jones for a 71-yard touchdown jaunt… Head to Head Competition-DT#79-Montey Stevenson (6:02-299)-Four tackles (3 solos).
Florida International…Arkansas gained 249 yards rushing, as Petrus posted five knock-downs, three touchdown-resulting blocks and a 90% grade…He was charged with a false start penalty four minutes into the game and again late in the second quarter, but he also led the way on Darren McFadden’s 3-yard touchdown run, followed by another key block on that tailback’s 2-yard score over left guard in the second quarter…Felix Jones used Petrus’s block on defensive end Audric Adger for a 16-yard touchdown jaunt late in the third quarter…Head to Head Competition-DT#94-Jon Betancourt (6:01-279)-One assisted tackle.
South Carolina…Petrus followed with ten knockdowns, two touchdown-resulting blocks and an 89% grade to help the Razorbacks amass 651 yards…Defensive end Eric Norwood was run over by Petrus on Casey Dick’s 4-yard scoring lob to Marcus Monk on the game-opening series and he later flattened linebacker Marvin Sapp to clear a path used by Felix Jones for a 72-yard touchdown run on a reverse in the first quarter…Head to Head Competition-DT#79-Margue Hall (6:03-302)-Four tackles (3 solos), 0.5 stop for minus 2 yards.
When Petrus reported for preseason camp, he was expected to compete for a starting job at one of the offensive guard spots, but the coaches decided to move the 288-pounder to fullback…Did not start any of the fourteen games he played in, but was a vital cog to the team’s ground game success…Helped clear the way for a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in Darren McFadden (1,647 yards) and Felix Jones (1,168), marking only the third time in Southeastern Conference history and 38th time in college football annals that a team had two players rush for over 1,000 yards in the same season…Had just one carry for the year, gaining one yard on that attempt vs. Southeast Missouri…Part of a blocking unit that finished second in the nation in fewest sacks allowed per game (0.64), yielding only nine sacks in 14 games…The Razorbacks had the SEC-leading and the nation’s fourth-best rushing attack, averaging 228.5 yards rushing per game.
Petrus joined the team as a walk-on and was scheduled to red-shirt, but the staff activated him for the final nine games of the schedule…Utilized as a member of the kickoff return team and a reserve tight end and offensive guard…Made his debut in Louisiana-Monroe game, as he graded 91% for blocking consistency, coming up with three knockdowns.
Attended Carlisle (Ark.) High School, playing football for head coach Jamie Jones…
Lettered as a tight end, fullback and linebacker…Recipient of the Class AA Conference Lineman of the Year Award and was named All-Conference and All-State as a senior…As a tight end, Petrus hauled in 40 receptions for 750 yards and eight touchdowns...During his junior campaign, he broke the state record for tackles in a game with 39…Recorded 306 tackles, including 145 solo tackles, his senior year and led the state…All-Conference and All-State performer in basketball…Also lettered in track.
Agricultural Business major, enrolled in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences…Was named to the Razorback Academic Honor Roll (2008-09)…Son of Sue and Phil Petrus… Born Jonathan Mitchell Petrus on 5/11/87…Resides in Carlisle, Arkansas.